Sen. Lisa Murkowski takes Biden administration to task over Chinese spy balloon
At a U.S. Senate committee hearing Thursday on the Chinese spy balloon shot down off South Carolina, Sen. Lisa Murkowski lashed out at the Biden administration.
“As an Alaskan, I am so angry, I want to use other words, but I’m not going to,” said Murkowski, who asked representatives from the Defense Department why the administration waited so long to respond to the threat — and why it did not take action, when the surveillance balloon first entered U.S. waters north of the Aleutian Islands on Jan. 28.
“It’s like this administration doesn’t think that Alaska is any part of the rest of the country here,” she said. “To get to the United States, you’ve got to come through Alaska.”
Murkowski listed a number of Alaska military installations at the hearing, key to the nation’s defense, and then asked why the state wasn’t the first line of defense.
“At what point do we say, a surveillance balloon, a spy balloon coming from China is a threat to our sovereignty?” Murkowski said. “It should be the minute — the minute it crosses the line — and that line is Alaska.”
Murkowski said the Biden administration has sent a troubling signal to China that they have free range over Alaska.
Melissa Dalton, deputy assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and hemispheric affairs, told the Senate panel there were a number of reasons why the balloon wasn’t shot down over Alaska waters.
“If we had taken it down over the state of Alaska, which is part of the United States, it would have been a very different recovery operation,” Dalton said.
Dalton told the Senate panel it would have been a much more dangerous recovery operation than the one conducted off the coast of South Carolina, eight days later.
“The water depths offshore [of] the Aleutians, at six-plus nautical miles, go very quickly from 150 feet to over 18,000 feet,” she said.
Thursday’s exchange took place a day before the Air Force shot down another unidentified object off Alaska’s North Slope, at Biden’s personal request. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that Friday’s object was much smaller than the Chinese balloon, about the size of a small car.
Defense department officials said they would reveal more information about the handling of the spy balloon in a separate, closed briefing.